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The New Art of Writing Plays 


of the 

Dramatic Museum 



First Seriei 

Papers on Playmaking : 

Lope de Vega. Translated by William T. 
Brewster. With an Introduction and 
Notes by Brander Matthews. 

Bronson Howard. With an Introduc- 
tion by Augustus Thomas. 

Brunetiere. Translated by Philip M. 
Hayden. With an Introduction by Henry 
Arthur Jones. 

By Arthur Wing Pinero. With an Intro- 
duction and Bibliographical Appendix by 
Clayton Hamilton. 



The New Art of Writing Plays 






Printed for the 

Dramatic Museum of Columbia University 

in the City of New York 




Introduction by Brander Matthews i 

The New Art of Writing Plays by Lope de Vega. . 23 

Notes by B. M 4 ! 


BY a significant coincidence the marvel- 
lous outflowering of the drama is si- 
multaneous in Spanish literature and 
in English. Spain almost exhausted her im- 
mense resources in fitting out the invincible 
Armada; and England strained every nerve 
to compass the defeat of the dread fleet. 
Lope de Vega, the foremost of the Iberian 
playwrights, actually sailed as a soldier on 
the fatal voyage to the English channel; and 
it is dimly possible that Shakspere also saw 
service on blue water; the year of the run- 
ning sea fight is one of those in his biography 
about which we have no information, and his 
use of sea-terms has been declared by an 
expert to be scientifically accurate. In this 
simultaneous development of the drama in 
England and in Spain at the moment when 
the energy of the two peoples was aroused 
to the utmost, we have a confirmation of 
Brunetiere's theory that the foundation of 
our pleasure in the playhouse is the assertion 
of the human will. 

Shakspere came forward after the Eng- 
lish drama had already developed a variety 
of forms; and he found the road broken 
for him by Marlowe and Kyd, by Lyly and 
Greene. At first he followed in their foot- 
steps, however far beyond them he was to 
advance in the end. Lope de Vega, on the 
other hand, was a pioneer; he it was who 
blazed the new trails in which all the suc- 
ceeding playwrights of Spain gladly trod. 
Shakspere seems to have cared little for in- 
vention, borrowing his plots anywhere and 
everywhere, and reserving his imagination 
for the interpretation of tales first told by 
others. Lope, on the other hand again, 
abounded rather in invention than in the in- 
terpreting imagination; he was wonderfully 
fecund and prolific, unsurpassed in produc- 
tivity even by Defoe or Dumas. It was 
he who made the pattern that Calderon ana 
all the rest were to employ. It was he who 
worked out the formula of the Spanish 
comedia, often not a comedy at all in our 
English understanding of the term, but 
rather a play of intrigue, peopled with hot- 
blooded heroes who wore their hearts on 

their sleeves and who carried their hands on 
the hilts of their swords. 

Where Lope de Vega and Shakspere are 
again alike is that they both wrote all their 
plays for the popular theater, apparently 
composing these pieces solely with a view to 
performance and caring nothing for any 
praise which might be derived from publica- 
tion. Martinenche, in his study of the 
'Comedia Espagnole' (p. 243, note) dwells 
on Lope's carelessness for the literary re- 
nown to be won by the printing of his dra- 
matic poems; in his non-dramatic poems he 
took pride, just as Shakspere seems to have 
read carefully the proofs of his lyrical nar- 
ratives altho he did not himself choose to 
publish a single one of his plays. And Mo- 
liere, it may be noted, tells us frankly that 
he was completely satisfied with the success 
of his earlier pieces on the stage, and that 
he had been content to leave them unprinted 
until his hand was forced by a pirate-pub- 

Shakspere is abundant in his allusions to 
the art of acting and reticent in his illusions 
to the art of playmaking. In fact, there is 
no single recorded expression of his opinion 


in regard to the principles or the practice of 
dramaturgy; and here he is in marked con- 
trast with Ben Jonson, who had a body of 
doctrine about the drama, which he set forth 
in his 'Discoveries' and in his prologs, as 
well as in his conversations with Drummond 
of Hawthornden. In general Lope's attitude 
toward dramaturgic theory is the same as 
Shakspere's; but on one occasion he was in- 
duced to discuss the principles of the art 
he adorned, and to express his opinions upon 
its methods. This single occasion was when 
he was persuaded to deliver a poetic address 
upon the 'New Art of Making Plays in This 

This 'Arte neuvo de hazer comedias en 
este tiempo' was originally published in the 
'Rimas' of Lope de Vega, Madrid, 1609. A 
facsimile reprint was issued by Mr. Archer 
M. Huntington in New York in 1903. A 
critical edition with an introduction and 
notes by A. Morel-Fatio appeared in the 
Bulletin Hispanique for October-December, 
190.4 and also in a separate pamphlet. The 
French editor accepts the year of publication 
as probably the year of delivery; and he 
believes the Academy of Madrid, before 


whom the poem was read, to be "no doubt 
one of those literary assemblies, imitated 
from those flourishing in Italy and holding 
their meetings at the house of some cultivated 

Lope's metrical address is plainly a re- 
mote imitation of Horace's epistle to the . 
Pisos, the model of countless critical codes 
cast into verse. It is the chief Spanish ex- 
ample of this type, as Boileau's 'Art 
Poetique' is the chief French example and 
Pope's 'Essay on Criticism' the chief English 
example. While most of these Horatian 
imitations have for their main topic poetry 
and more especially dramatic poetry, at- 
tempts were not lacking to borrow the fa- 
miliar form for non-literary themes; and as 
a result there are a host of poems in all the 
modern tongues on the 'Art of War' and the 
'Art of Painting,' on the 'Art of Bookbind- 
ing' and on the 'Art of Cookery.' Even so 
late as the first half of the nineteenth cen- 
tury Samson (of the Comedie-Fran^aise) 
condensed his histrionic advice into riming 
couplets on the 'Art of Acting.' 

Most of those imitations of Horace's di- 
dactic poem which deal with poetry and the 


drama borrow from the Latin lyrist not only 
their method but also much of their material. 
The supersubtle Italian theorists of the 
theater were relying on Horace even when 
they supposed that they were interpreting 
Aristotle; and these expounders of Horace 
had elaborated legislative enactments for the 
theater which were readily accepted by all 
_who desired the purification of the drama. 
Tim Classicist code of rules for playwrights 
was mainly negative; it was made up largely 
of restrictions upon the poet's freedom ; it or- 
dered him to do a few things but it forbad 
him to do many things. It prescribed the 
I total separation of tragedy and comedy, ad- j 
' mitting nothing humorous into the former 
and excluding everything serious from the 
latter. It insisted severely upon the austere 
dignity of tragedy. It told the dramatist 
to avoid all scenes of violence; and it ad- 
vised him to use messengers to narrate all 
events which might not be exhibited with 
propriety. Above all, it laid stress upon the 
strict observance of the Three Unities de- 
manding that the playwright should have 
but one story to set on the stage; that he 
should show this single action in one place 

only ; and that this single action, shown in a 
single place, should be begun and completed 
, in a single day. 

Lope's 'New Art of Making Plays' is not a 
familiar epistle like Horace's 'Ars Poetica'; 
rather is it a familiar discourse having the 
playful ease of an afterdinner speech. It con- 
sists of a series of paragraphs of irregular 
length, varying from four to forty lines each. 
It is written in blank verse, hendecasyllabics, 
except that the last two lines of every para- 
graph are in rime. These terminal couplets 
recall the riming exit-speeches common in 
contemporary Elizabethan drama; and in 
both cases apparently the rimes serve to 
heighten the emphasis at the end of the rhe- 
torical period. At the conclusion of his ad- 
dress, Lope drops into Latin and inserts ten 
lines in that tongue ten lines of unidenti- 
fied origin. These Latin verses may be his 
own composition or they may yet be traced 
to some overlooked poem. They are brought 
into harmony with the rest of the work by the 
ingenious device of riming the last Latin 
line with a line in Spanish, thus making a 
couplet half in the learned language and 
half in the vernacular. These two hybrid 

lines are immediately followed by the usual 
terminal couplet, so that there are only three 
lines in Spanish after the ten lines of Latin. 
In the translation which follows the Latin 
verse has been rendered into English rime 
by Professor Edward Delavan Perry. 

Professor Rennert in his authoritative bi- 
ography of Lope (p. 179) declares that 
Lope's address "is written in a bantering 
spirit, and a vein of good humor pervades 
the whole poem. Lope evidently did not 
take the matter very seriously, nor reflect 
deeply on what he was about to say. It 
probably did not take him much longer to 
write the 'New Art of Making Plays' than 
it took him to write as many lines of a co- 
media. The versification, strangely enough, 
lacks Lope's habitual ease and fluency; it is 
careless and sometimes halting, while the 
sense is not always clear, an additional sign 
that this treatise was hastily composed." 

Morel-Fatio notes that the 'Arte Nuevo' 
was reprinted only three times during Lope's 
life-time, at Madrid in 1613 and 1621 and 
at Hueva in 1623; and he finds in the poem 
itself ample explanation for its lack of pop- 
ularity. Lope was the superb leader of an 

astounding development of the Spanish 
drama; and he himself tells us that when he 
delivered this address he had already written 
nearly five hundred plays. Yet lie utters no 
paean of triumph; he blows no bugle-blast 
of defiance to the defenders of other stand- 
ards than those under which he himself was 
fighting; he does not anticipate the ardor 
and the fervor which were to animate Victor 
Hugo's preface to 'Cromwell'; he does not 
stand to his guns and point to what he has 
accomplished on the stage as his own justifi- 
cation and as a sufficient answer to the cavil- 
ing of criticasters. His attitude seems to be 
humble and apologetic; he admits the valid- 
ity of the Classicist code of rules; and in his 
own defence he proffers only what the law- 
yers call a plea of confession and avoidance, 
declaring that he would have obeyed the be- 
hest of the learned theorists if only he had 
been permitted by the public. He acknowl- 
edges the faultiness of all his dramatic works 
and throws the blame on the depravity of 
public taste, since 

We who live to please, must please to live. 

He supports his acceptance of the Classi- 

cist doctrine with a brave show of erudition 
and with mention of Cicero, Donatus, Ro- 
bortello, Julius Pollux, Manetti, Plutarch, 
Athenaeus, Xenophon, Valerus Maximus, 
Pietro Crinito and Vitruvius; and Morel- 
Fatio declares that this pedantic parade has 
no solid foundation of scholarship, being de- 
rived entirely from two writers, Donatus, 
the commentator on Terence, and Robortello, 
the commentator on Aristotle and on Hor- 
ace. In this second-hand echoing of the co- 
difiers of critical theory the great Spanish 
playwright reveals no independence of inter- 
pretation, accepting without question what- 
ever he has found in the commentaries and 
never asking himself whether the commenta- 
tors had any valid reason for the rules they 
laid down so authoritatively. In other 
words, the 'Arte Nuevo' does not disclose 
Lope's possession of any critical curiosity 
or of any critical acumen, or even of any real 
interest in the discussion of critical theories. 
We have no right to expect that those as 
richly endowed with the creative faculty as 
Lope indisputably was, should also have an 
equal share of the critical faculty. The 
analysis of the principles of their own special 

art by the poets and painters and playwrights 
who venture into the critical arena is always 
interesting but it is rarely philosophic and it 
is generally technical. And it is to technic 
that Lope devotes the most of his discourse. 
He trips lightly down the history of the new 
Spanish drama; and then he proceeds to be- 
stow practical advice on aspiring young 
playwrights. He tells these novices that they 
must give the public what it wants, and he' 
counsels them as to the best methods of tick- 
ling the taste of the uncritical playgoer. He 
descends to minute practical details; and, in 
short, his suggestions are those of a veteran 
of the craft supplying lessons in playwriting 
for a correspondence-school. 

In so far as Lope lays down any critical 
principles at all, these are but the codifica- 
tion of his own instinctive practise. His 
address is like "the speech of a carpenter 
standing on the peak of a building he has 
just erected" to borrow Richter's sarcastic 
phrase. Lope had himself succeeded as a 
practical playwright; and his plays had cer- 
tain characteristics and were put together 
in a certain fashion. As these plays had 
pleased the public, beginners would do well 
1 1 

to consider these characteristics and to fol- 
low this fashion. He utters his shrewd rec- 
ommendations most unpretentiously, with no 
hint of arrogance and with a friendly genial- 
ity of tone. Behind his modest precepts stand 
his own plays in which his ideal is more 
sharply made manifest. Lope's ideal is that 
of all his contemporaries, including Calderon 
(who followed in his footsteps and often 
borrowed his plots). It is that the stage 
is intended primarily for story-telling, for 
presenting in action a serial tale which shall 
excite the constant interest of curiosity. 

He bids the beginner to put together his 
story with the utmost care, laying the foun- 
dations in the first act, contriving unexpected 
complications for the second and concealing 
the solution of the action until the very last 
moment possible, as otherwise the specta- 
tors may get up and go out, when once they 
can foresee the end. He lays all his stress 
upon adroitness and ingenuity of plot-build- 
ing; and such casual remarks as he makes 
upon character-delineation seem perfunctory. 
In thus emphasizing the primary importance 
of the action Lope is only echoing Aristotle, 
altho he probably was not aware of this. 

And the practise of the Spanish playwrights 
under the lead of Lope was closely akin to 
that of their contemporaries, the English 
playwrights under the lead of Kyd, and again 
later under the lead of Beaumont and 
Fletcher. Like Lope, Kyd in his way and 
Beaumont and Fletcher in theirs, were story- 
tellers on the stage. Poets they were all of / 
them, but as playwrights they depended on 
plot, on suspense and especially on surprize 
often achieved only by contradiction of 

The abiding interest of the 'Arte Nuevo' 
is two-fold. It resides partly in the sugges- 
tiveness of the elementary lessons in the art 
of playmaking, which Lope here proffers to 
apprentices in the art and which are invalu- 
able as an aid for proper appreciating the 
methods of the Spanish playwrights of the 
Age of Gold. It resides partly in the cu- 
riously deprecating attitude taken by Lope 
toward his own works, altho he was ap- 
proaching the pinnacle of his fame when he 
penned this didactic poem. Is the great 
Spanish playwright sincere in his humility 
before the code of the Classicists? Is his 
self-abasement genuine or is it ironic? 

Morel-Fatio follows Menendez y Pelayo in 
accepting it at its face value. Guillaume 
Huszar, in his useful book on Corneille and 
the Spanish theater, thinks that when Lope 
pretends to disparage his own plays he is not 
to be taken seriously. I confess that I 
should like to agree with this latter view; and 
there is some little internal evidence in sup- 
port of it. But the balance is rather in favor 
of the former opinion. Yet however hon- 
est may be Lope's willingness to do penance 
to the Classicist code which he admits to 
have outraged, his is a proud humility after 
all. He is not really as abased and as plain- 
tive as some of his critics have asserted. 
Modest as he may be, he takes care to make 
his own position plain. For all his easy 
attitude and his tolerant geniality, for all his 
lightness of touch on the one side and his 
pedantic citation on the other, he does not 
fail to ihsist on his authorship of nearly half 
a thousand plays and to remind his auditors 
N that he has continuously succeeded in pleas- 
, ing the public, even tho he had to violate the 
v rules in order to win this success. 

Lope assumes a detached attitude and his 
tone is bantering, as Professor Rennert has 

suggested. He does not here display the 
intense personal interest in the analysis of his 
own work which glows and burns thru all 
Corneille's 'Examens,' in spite of the French 
dramatic poet's occasional confession of a 
lapse from the strict letter of the law. Lope 
has none of the prophetic fire of Hugo's fa- 
mous preface in anticipatory defence of the 
plays he was going to write. In fact, it is 
difficult to deny that this poem is a pretty 
careless piece of work, tossed off in an idle 
hour, evoked by a special occasion when it 
behooved the speaker to assume a self-de- 
precatory attitude. But it is not the "la- 
mentable palinode" that Menendez y Pelayo 
called it; nor is it exactly what Mr. Ormsby 
termed it (in the Quarterly Review for Jan- 
uary, 1894) "virtually the manifesto of a 
triumphant dictator, a dramatic Napoleon 
who, while professing the profoundest re- 
spect for the sovereign will of the public, 
scarcely cared to hide his contempt for its 
intelligence or its taste, which foreign critics, 
he says, justly called barbarous; or to dis- 
guise the fact that he owed his power to his 
knowledge and adroit manipulation of its 
weaknesses." That scholars so well equipt 

for the consideration of Spanish literature 
and so well fitted for the interpretation of 
the Spanish character as Ormsby and Ren- 
nert, Morel-Fatio and Menendez y Pelayo 
can take views as conflicting as those severally 
expressed by them, this is proof positive Lope has not taken the pains neces- 
sary to make his position clear. 

While Lope was willing at least to render 
lip-service to the code of the Classicists, one 
of his followers in the theater, Tirso de Mo- 
lina, (best known as the author of the earli- 
est dramatization of the Don Juan legend) in 
his 'Cigarrales de Toledo,' published in 
1624, fifteen years after Lope's address, is 
bold in denying the validity of any rule lim- 
iting the duration of time or forbidding a 
change of scene, (See Breitinger's 'Unites 
d' Aristote' pp. 29 seq. ) But Cervantes in the 
first part of 'Don Quixote,' published in 
1605, four years before the delivery of the 
'Arte Nuevo,' had revealed a plentiful lack 
of sympathy for the so-called Aristotelian 
rules. There is no disputing the irony in 
his portrait of the Canon of Toledo who de- 
manded the appointment of "some intelligent 
and sensible person at the capital to examine 

all plays before they were acted, not only 
those produced in the capital itself, but all 
that were intended to be acted in Spain; 
without whose approval, seal and signature, 
no local magistracy should allow any play to 
be acted." (Ormsby's translation, ii, 387, 
chapter xlviii). Earlier remarks of the 
Canon show us that he was familiar with 
whole Classicist code; indeed, Ormsby (in a 
foot-note to his translation of this chapter) 
calls attenion to the substantial identity of the 
Canon's opinions with those expressed by Sir 
Philip Sidney in the 'Apology for Poesy.' In 
another work of fiction written more than 
two centuries later, in the 'Nicholas Nickel- 
by' of Dickens, we are introduced to a Mr. 
Murdle whose knowledge is obviously 
vaguer than the Canon's but who is quite as 
strenuous in his insistence upon "the preser- 
vation of the unities." 

Into the vext question of the personal rela- 
tions of Cervantes and of Lope, it is not 
needful to enter here. It would be pleasant 
to believe that each really appreciated the 
genius of the other; but however pleasant 
this is not quite possible. Cervantes seems 
not to have suspected the greatness of 

his own masterpiece; and it is plain that he 
had a special fondness for his plays, which 
had not succeeded. Lope must have been 
conscious of his own position at the head of 
all Spanish poets ; he might assume a humble 
attitude when he was the author of less than 
five hundred plays but by the time that he 
had more than a thousand pieces to his credit 
the garment of humility is no longer becom- 
ing. Martinenche in his 'Comedia Espa- 
gnole' (pp. 113-4) follows Morel-Fatio in 
pointing out Lope's later satisfaction with 
what he had accomplished, even to the extent 
1 of claiming for himself the invention of the 
new type of play which had established itself 
on the Spanish stage. 

When we consider the extraordinary 
vogue of Lope as a playwright in the Golden 
Age of Spanish literature and the swift dif- 
fusion of his fame thruout Europe, when we 
recall his unparalleled productivity, and 
when we remember his supreme importance 

I as a representative of a superb development 
of the modern drama, we cannot fail to be 
surprised to discover that no adequate at- 
tempt has ever been made to present him to 
the English reading public. In French there 

are two translations of selections from his 
dramatic works; and there are also varied 
renderings into German. But in English 
there is little or nothing. Lord Holland in 
1787 analized the 'Star of Seville' and 
turned the more striking episodes into Eng- 
lish; and it was on this summary and on 
these fragments that Mrs. Kemble founded 
her five act 'Star of Seville' published in 
1837. Holcroft had utilized Lope's 'Padre 
Engafiado' in the plot of his 'Father Outwit- 
ted,' published in 1805. A perversion of 
Lope's play on the 'Romeo and Juliet' story 
had been issued in English in 1770; and this 
moved F. W. Cosens to print (for private 
distribution) in 1869 a careful translation of 
'Castelvines y Montreses'. In the sixth 
volume of 'The Drama,' edited by Alfred 
Bates and published in 1903, there is a trans- 
lation of the 'Perro del Hortelano,' (the 
'Gardener's Dog') by W. H. H. Chambers. 
These scattered versions and perversions ap- 
parently represent all of Lope's dramatic 
work which has found its way into our lan- 
guage. It is greatly to be desired that at 
least one volume might be issued in English 
to contain the 'Star of Seville,' the 'Gard- 

ener's Dog,' the 'Romeo and Juliet,' and the 
'Duchess of Malfi' plays, and also the 'Phy- 
sician of his own Honor,' and the 'Alcalde 
of Zalamea,' of which Calderon's rehand- 
lings are already accessible in Fitzgerald's 
free rendering. 

A few scattered passages from the 'Arte 
Nuevo' were turned into English couplets by 
Lord Holland; and some of those were bor- 
rowed (without credit) in G. H. Lewes's 
stimulating study of the Spanish Drama, is- 
sued in 1846. An inadequate and incom- 
plete version, derived mainly from the 
French translation of Dumas-Hinard, was 
included in an essay on Lope published in the 
Catholic World for September, 1878. There 
is a careful abstract in Professor Rennert's 
standard biography of Lope (1904). But 
Professor Brewster's translation is the first 
attempt to render into English the whole of 
Lope's advice to the aspiring playwrights of 
his own time and country. 

(June 1914.) 



Addressed to the Academy at Madrid. 

1. You command me, noble spirits, flow- 
er of Spain, who in this congress and re- 
nowned academy will in short space of time 
surpass not only the assemblies of Italy 
which Cicero, envious of Greece, made fa- 
mous with his own name, hard by the Lake 
of Avernus, but also Athens where in the 
Lyceum of Plato was seen high conclave of 
philosophers, to write you an art of the 
play which is today acceptable to the taste of 
the crowd. 

2. Easy seems this subject, and easy it 
would be for anyone of you who had written 
very few comedies, and who knows more 

out the art of writing them and of all these 
things; for what condemns me in this task 
* .Jis that I have written them without art. 

3. Not because I was ignorant of the pre- 
cepts; thank God, even while I was a tyro in 
grammar, I went through the books which 

2 3 

treated the subject, before I had seen the sun 
run its course ten times from the Ram to the 

4. i But because, in fine,! found that com- 
edies were not at that time, in Spain, as their j 
first devisers in the world thought that they! 
should be written; but rather as many ru 
fellows managed them, who confirmed the 1 
crowd in its own crudeness I and so they were 
introduced in such wise that he who now 
writes them artistically dies without fame I 
and guerdon; for custom can do more 
among those who lack light of art than rea- 

Tn and force. 
5. True it is that I have sometimes writ- 
ten in accordance with the art which few 
know; but, no sooner do I see coming from 
some other source the monstrosities full of 
painted scenes where the crowd congregates 
and the women who canonize this sad busi- 
ness, than I return to that same barbarous 
habit J and when I have to write a comedy I 
lock in the precepts with six keys, I banish 
Terence and Plautus from my study that they 
may not cry out at me; for truth, even in 
dumb books, is wont to call aloud; I and I 
write in accordance with that art whicn they 

devised who aspired to the applause of the 
crowd; for, since the crowd pays for the 
comedies, it is fitting to talk foolishly to it to 
satisfy its taste. 

6. Yet true comedy has its end estab- 
lished like every kind of poem or poetic art, * 
and that has always been to imitate the ac- 1 

/tions of men and to paint the customs of their 
age. Furthermore, all poetic imitation what- 
soever is composed of three things, which 
are discourse, agreeable verse, harmony, that 
is to say music, which so far was common 
also to tragedy; comedy being different from 
tragedy in that it treats of lowly and plebeian 
actions, and tragedy of royal and great ones. 
LooTc whether there be in our comedies few 

7. /^tt/ojwas the name given to them, for 
they imitate the actions and the doings of 
the crowd. Lope de Rueda was an example 
in Spain of these principles, and today are 
to be seen in print prose comedies of his so 
lowly that he introduces into them the doings 
of mechanics and the love of the daughter 
of a smith; whence there has remained the 

* custom of calling the old comedies entre- 
meses, where the art persists in all its force, 

there being one action and that between ple- 
beian people ; for an entr ernes with a king has 
never been seen. And thus it is shown how 
the art, for very lowness of style, came to be 
held in great disrepute, and the king in the 
comedy to be introduced for the ignorant. 

8. Aristotle depicts in his 'Poetics', al- 
tho obscurely, the beginning of comedy; 
the strife between Athens and Megara as to 
which of them was the first inventor; they 
of Megara say that it was Epicarmus, 
while Athens would have it that Mag- 
netes was the man. Elias Donatus says 
it had its origin in ancient sacrifices. He 
names Thespis as the author of tragedy, 
following Horace, who affirms the same, as 
of comedies, Aristophanes. Homer com- 
posed the 'Odyssey' in imitation of comedy, 
but the 'Iliad' was a famous example of trag- 
edy, in imitation of which I called my 'Jer- 
usalem' an epic, and added the term tragic; 
and in the same manner all people commonly 
term the 'Inferno,' the 'Purgatorio,' and the 
'Paradise' of the celebrated poet Dante Ali- 
ghieri a comedy, and this Manetti recognizes 
in his prolog. 

9. Now everybody knows that comedy, 


as if under suspicion, was silenced for a cer- 
tain time, and that hence also satire was 
born, which, being more cruel, more quickly 
came to an end, and gave place to the New 
Comedy. The choruses were the first things ; 
then the fixt number of the characters was 
introduced; but Menander, whom Terence 
followed, held the choruses in despite, as 
offensive. Terence was more circumspect as 
to the principles; since he never elevated the 
style of comedy to the greatness of tragedy, 
which many have condemned as vicious in 
Plautus; for in this respect Terence was 
more wary. 

i o/" Tragedy has as its argument history, 
and comedy fiction; for this reason it was 
called flat-footed, of humble argument, since 
the actor performed without buskin or stage. 
There were comedies with the pallium, 
mimes, comedies with the toga, fabulae atel- 
lanae, and comedies of the tavern, which 
were also, as now, of various sorts. 

11. With Attic elegance the men of 
Athens chided vice and evil custom in their 
comedies, and they gave their prizes both to 
the writers of verse and to the devisers of 
action. For this Tully called comedies "the 


mirror of custom and a living image of the 
truth," a very high tribute, in that comedy 
ran even with history. Look whether it be 
worthy of this crown and glory ! 

12. But now I perceive that you are 
saying that this is merely translating books 
and wearying you with painting this mixed- 
up affair. Believe me there has been a rea- 
son why you should be reminded of some of 
these things; for you see that you ask me 
to describe the art of writing plays in Spain, 
where whatever is written is in defiance of 
art; and to tell how they are now written 
contrary to the ancient rule and to what is 
founded on reason, is to ask me to draw on 
my experience, not on art, for art speaks 
truth which the ignorant crowd gainsays. 

13. If then, you desire art, I beseech 
you, men of genius, to read the very learned 
Robortello of Udine and you will see in what 
he says concerning Aristotle and especially 
in what he writes about comedy, as much as 
is scattered among many books; for every- 
thing of today is in a state of confusion. 

14. If you wish to have my opinion of 
the comedies which now have the upper hand 
and to know why it is necessary that the 


crowd with its laws should maintain the^vile_ 
chimera of this comic monster, I will tell you 
what I hold, and do you pardon me, since I 
must obey whoever has power to command 
me, that, gilding the error of the crowd, I 
desire to tell you of what sort I would have 
them; for there is no recourse but to follow 
art observing a mean between the two ex- 

15. "Let the subject be chosen and do not 
be amused, may you excuse these precepts ! 
if it happens to deal with kings; tho, 
for that matter, I understand that Philip 
the Prudent, King of Spain and our lord, 
was offended at seeing a king in them ; either 
because the matter was hostile to art or be- 
cause the royal authority ought not to be 
represented among the lowly and the vulgar. 

1 6. This is merely turning back to the 
Old Comedy, where we see that Plautus in- 
troduced gods, as in his 'Amphitryon' he rep- 
resents Jupiter. God knows that I have dif- 
ficulty in giving this my approbation, since 
Plutarch, speaking of Menander, does not 
highly esteem Old Comedy. But since we 
are so far away from art and in Spain do it 

a thousand wrongs, let the learned this once 

close their lips. 

/ r 

17.^ Tragedy mixed with comedy and 
Terence with Seneca, tho it be like another 
minotaur of Pasiphae, will render one part 
grave, the other ridiculous; f^r this variety 
causes much delight. Nature gives us good 
example, for through such variety it is beau- 

1 8. Bear in mind that this subject should 
contain one action only, seeing to it that the 
story in no manner be episodic; I mean the 
introduction of other things which are beside 
the main purpose; nor that any member be 
omitted which might ruin the whole of the 
context. There is no use in advising that it 
should take place in the period of one sun, 
tho this is the view of Aristotle ; but we lose 
our respect for him when we mingle tragic 
style with the humbleness of mean comedy. 
Let it take place in as little time as possible, 
except when the poet is writing history in 
which some years have to pass; these he 
can relegate to the space between the acts, 
wherein, if necessary, he can have a character 
go on some journey; a thing that greatly of- 

fends whoever perceives it. But let not him 
who is offended go to see them. 

19. Oh ! how lost in admiration are many 
at this very time at seeing that years are 
passed in an affair to which an artificial day 
sets a limit; tho for this they would not 
allow the mathematical day I But, consider- 
ing that the wrath of a seated Spaniard is 
immoderate, when in two hours there is not 
presented to him everything from Genesis to 
the Last Judgment, I deem it most fitting, if it 
be for us here to please him, for us to adjust 
everything so that it succeeds. 

20. vThe subject once chosen, write in \\ 
prose, and divide the matter into three acts 

of time, seeing to it, if possible, that in each 
one the space of the day be not broken. Cap- 
tain Virues, a worthy wit, divided comedy 
into three acts, which before had gone on all 
fours, as on baby's feet, for comedies were 
then infants. I wrote them myself, when 
eleven or twelve years of age, of four acts 
and of four sheets of paper, for a sheet con- 
tained each act; and then it was the fashion 
that for the three intermissions were made 
three little entremeses, but today scarce one,, 
and then a dance, for the dancing is so* 

important in comedy that Aristotle ap- 
proves of it, and Athenaeus, Plato, and 
Xenophon treat of it, though this last disap- 
proves of indecorous dancing; and for this 
reason he is vexed at Callipides, wherein he 
pretends to ape the ancient chorus. The 
matter divided into two parts, see to the con- 
nection from the beginning until the action 
runs down; but do not permit the untying of 
the plot until reaching the last scene ; for the 
crowd, knowing what the end is, will turn its 
face to the door and its shoulder to what it 
has awaited three hours face to face; for in 
what appears nothing more is to be known. 
2i.-\ Very seldom should the stage remain 
without someone speaking, because the crowd 
becomes restless in these intervals and the 
story spins itself out at great length; for, 
besides its being a great defect, the avoidance 

of it increases grace and artifice. X'' 

vO IB 

22. i Begin then, and, with simple lan- 
guage, ilo not spend sententious thoughts and 
witty sayings on family trifles, which is all 
that the familiar talk of two or three people 
is representing. But when the character who 
is introduced persuades, counsels or dis- 
suades, then there should be gravity and wit; 


'' mi 

for then doubtless is truth observed, since 
a man speaks in a different style from what 
is common when he gives counsel, or per- 
suades, or argues against anything. Aristides, 
the rhetorician, gave us warrant for this ; for 
he wishes the language of comedy to be pure, 
clear, and flexible, and he adds also that it 
should be taken from the usage of the peo- 
ple, this being different from that of polite 
society; for in the latter case the diction will 
be elegant, sonorous, and adorned. Do not 
drag in quotations, nor let your language of- 
fend because of exquisite words; for, if one 
is to imitate those who speak, it should not 
be by the language of Panchaia, of the 
Metaurus, v pf hippogriffs, demi-gods and cen- 

irs. i 

23. | If the king should speak, imitate as 
much as possible the gravity of a king; if 
the sage speak, observe a sententious mod- 
esty; describe lovers with those passions 
which greatly move whoever listens to themjj 
manage soliloquies in such a manner that the 
recitant is quite transformed, and in chang- 
ing himself, changes the listenef^tLet him 
ask questions and reply to himself, and if 
he shall make plaints, let him observe the re- 

spect due to women. T,et not ladies disre- 
gard their character, and if they change cos- 
tumes, let it be in such wise that it may be 
excused; for male disguise usually is very 
pleasing. Let him be on his guard against 
impossible things, for it is of the chiefest 
importance that only the likeness of truth 
should be represented. The lackey should 
not discourse of lofty affairs, nor express the 
conceits which we have seen in certain foreign 
plays; and in no wise let the charter con- 
tradict himself in what he has said^I mean 
to say, forget, as in Sophocles one blames 
Oedipus for not remembering that he v has 
killed Laius with his own h;iml. .,. Let the 
scenes end with epigram, with wit, and with 
elegant verse, in such wise that, at his exit, he 
\ who spouts leave not the audience disgusted. 
* In the first act set forth the case. In the 
y second weave together the events, in such 
o> wise tKat until the middle of the third act 
one may hardly guess the outcome. Always 
trick expectancy; and hence it may come to 
pass that something quite far from what is 
promised may be left to the understanding. 
Tactfully suit x your verse to the subjects be- 
ing treated. " Dccimas are good for com- 



plainings; the sonnet is good for those who 
are waiting in expectation; recitals of events 
ask for romances, though they shine bril- ' p 
liantly in octavas. Tercets are for grave 
affairs and redondillas for affairs of love. 
jl JLet rhetorical figures be brought in, as repe- 
tition or anadiplosis, and in the beginning 
of these same verses the various forms of 
anaphora; and also irony, questions, apos- 
trophes, and exclamations. 

24. To deceive the audience with the 
truth is a thing that has seemed well, as 
Miguel Sanchez, worthy of this memorial for 
the invention, was wont to do in all his com- 
edies. Equivoke and the uncertainty arising 
from ambiguity have always held a large 
place among the crowd, for it thinks that it 
alone understands what the other one is say- 
ing. Better still are the subjects in which 
honor has a part, since they deeply stir every- 
body; along with them go ^ifitwous deeds, for 
virtue is everywhere loved; 'hence we see, if 
an actor chance to represent a traitor, he is so 
hateful to everyone that what he wishes to 
buy is not sold him, and the crowd flees when 
it meets him; but if he is loyal, they lend 
to him and invite him, and even the chief 

men honor him, love him, seek him out, en- 
tertain him, and acclaim him. 

25. Let each act have but four sheets, 
for twelve are well suited to the time and 
the patience of him who is listening. In 
satirical parts, be not clear or open, since it 
is known that for this very reason comedies 

,. were forbidden by law in Greece and Italy ; 

1 wound without hate, for if, perchance, slan- 
der be done, expect not applause, nor aspire 
to fame. 

26. These things you may regard as 
aphorisms which you get not from the ancient 
art, which the present occasion allows no fur- 
ther space for treating; since whatever has 
to do with the three kinds of stage properties 
which Vitruvius speaks of concerns the im- 
presario; just as Valerius Maximus, Petrus 
Crinitus, Horace in his epistles, and others 
describe these properties, with their drops, 
trees, cabins, houses, and simulated marbles. 

27. Of costume Julius Pollux would tell 
us if it were necessary, for in Spain it is the 
case that the comedy of today is replete with 
barbarous things: a Turk wearing the neck- 
gear of a Christian and a Roman in tight 


28. But of all, nojjpdy can I call more 
barbarous than myselfjsince in defiance of 
art I dare to lay down precepts, and I allow 
myself to be borne along in the vulgar cur- 
rent, wherefore Italy and France call me 
ignorant. But what can I do if I have writ- 
ten four hundred and eighty-three comedies, 
along with one which I have finished this 
week? For all of these, except six, gravely 
sin against art. Yet, in fine, I defend what I 
have written, and I know that, tho they 
might have been better in another manner, 
they would not have had the vogue which 
they have had; for sometimes that which is 
contrary to what is just, for that very reason, 
pleases the taste. 

How Comedy reflects this life of man, 

How true her portraiture of young and old; 
How subtle wit, polished in narrow span, 

And purest speech, and more too you behold; 
What grave consideration mixed with smiles, 

What seriousness, along with pleasant jest; 
Deceit of slaves; how woman oft beguiles 

How full of slyness is her treacherous breast; 
How silly, awkward swains to sadness run, 

How rare success, though all seems well begun, 


Let one hear with attention, and dispute 
not of the art; for in comedy everything will 
be found of such a sort that in listening to it 
everything becomes evident. 

(Translated by William T. Brewster.) 



i. The opening passage of Lope's poem 
is thus rendered into English verse by Lord 

Bright flow'rs of Spain, whose young academy 

Ere long shall that by Tully nam'd outvie; 

And match'd the Athenian porch where Plato 


Whose sacred shades such throngs of sages sought, 
You bid me tell the art of writing plays 
Such as the crowd might please, and you might 


The work seems easy easy it might be 
To you who write not much, but not to me. 
For how should I the rules of art explain, 
I, whom nor art nor rule should e'er restrain? 
Not but I studied all the antient rules: 
Yes, God be praised, long since in grammar schools, 
Scarce ten years old, with all the patience due, 
The books that subject treat I waded through: 
My case was simple, in these latter days, 
The truant authors of our Spanish plays 
So wide had wander'd from the narrow road 
Which the strict fathers of the drama trod, 
I found the stage with barbarous pieces stor'd: 
The critics censur'd ; but the crowd ador'd. 
Nay more ; these sad corrupters of the stage 
So blended taste, and so debauch'd the age, 
Who writes by rule must please himself alone, 
Be daimn'd without remorse, and die unknown. 


Such force has habit for the untaught fools, 

Trusting their own, despise the antient rules, 

Yet, true it is, I too have written plays, 

The wiser few, who judge with skill, might praise : 

But when I see how shew and nonsense, draws 

The crowd's, and, more than all, the fair's applause, 

Who still are forward with indulgent rage 

To sanction every monster of the stage. 

I, doom'd to write, the public taste to hit, 

Resume the barbarous dress 'twas vain to quit; 

I lock up every rule before I write, 

Plautus and Terence drive from out my sight, 

Lest rage should teach these injur'd wits to join, 

And their dumb books cry shame on works like 


To vulgar standards then I square my play, 
Writing at ease; for, since the public pay, 
'Tis just, methinks, I by their compass steer, 
And write the nonsense that they love to hear. 

The two lines in which Lope declares that 
he locks up Plautus and Terence with six keys 
were quoted by Victor Hugo in the procla- 
mation of his theories of dramatic art pre- 
fixt to his unactable 'Cromwell' (1827). But 
Souriau in his annotated edition of the 'Pre 
face de Cromwell' thinks it possible that 
Hugo may have borrowed the quotation 
second-hand from a pamphlet by Scudery, 'La 
Preuve des Passages' put forth during the 
quarrel over Corneille's 'Cid.' It is amusing 
to note that M. Emile Faguet, quoting these 
lines in his 'Drame Ancien, Drame Moderne' 

(p. 122) inadvertently credits them to Cer- 

Fitzgerald, in the preface to his transla- 
tions from Calderon, asserts that certain of 
the defects discoverable in these pieces do 
not represent "Calderon's own better self, 
but concession to private haste or public taste 
by one who so often relied upon some strik- 
ing dramatic crisis for success with a not very 
accurate audience." It may be objected that 
this plea is dangerous in that it is based on 
the unwarrantable assumption that Calde- 
ron's private taste was different from that of 
the public to which he appealed; but it can 
be urged in behalf of Lope as potently as in 
behalf of Calderon. Lope's own plea that 
he must give the public what it wants is more 
effectively put by Moliere, in the preface to 
the 'Precieuses Ridicules' ; "I should needless- 
ly offend all Paris, if I accused it of having 
applauded a piece of stupidity; as the public 
is the absolute judge of works of this sort, 
it would be impertinent in me to contradict 
it; and even if I had the worst possible opin- 
ion of my 'Precieuses' before the perform- 
ance, I ought now to believe that it has some 
value, since so many persons together have 
spoken well of it." 

6. Morel-Fatio points out that this para- 
graph is practically a literal translation from 
Robortello's 'Paraphrases in libram Horatii 

De Comedia.' It is mainly from Robortello 
that Lope derives all his parade of erudition. 

8. In this paragraph, as Morel-Fatio in- 
forms us, Lope is again relying on Robortello 
and also on Donatus. 

9. At the end of this paragraph Lope, 
following Donatus blindly, attributes to Te- 
rence the loftiness of style to which Plautus 
occasionally attained. As Damas-Hinard 
noted in his French translation of certain 
of Lope's plays, the Spanish poet is here 
sinning against light, since he had a first-hand 
knowledge of the comedies of both the .Latin 

15. Professor Rennert (p. 180) points 
out that this distinction between tragedy and 
comedy is arbitrary and un-Aristotelian, altho 
it was "the one that obtained thruout the 
Renascence and down to the end of the period 
of Classicism." It was the doctrine of 
Robortello and of the later Italian theorists 
that it was "the rank of the characters, and 
this only, which distinguished a tragedy from 
a comedy." This is the distinction which 
Sir Philip Sidney maintains in his 'Defence 
of Poesy.' 

Here is Lord Holland's metrical version 
of the concluding lines of this passage : 

Once to behold a monarch on the stage, 
England, 'tis said, our prudent Philip's rage; 
Or that he deem'd such characters unfit 


For lively sallies and for comic wit; 

Or crowns debas'd, if actors were allow'd 

To bring the state of kings before a low-born crowd. 

In his 'Hamburg Dramaturgy,' (p. 394-5 
of the English version in Bohn's series) 
Lessing translates a score of these lines, end- 
ing with Lope's assertion that nature has set 
us the example of commingling the ludicrous 
with the serious; and then he asks : "Is it true 
that nature sets us an example of the common 
and the sublime, the farcical and the serious, 
the merry and the sad? It seems so. But 
if this is true, Lope has done more than he 
intended; he has not only glossed over the 
faults of his stage, he has really proved that 
these are no faults, for nothing can be a 
fault that is an imitation of nature." But 
Mezieres in the introduction he prefixt to the 
French translation of Lessing's dramatic 
criticism quotes a passage from Diderot on 
the danger of uniting tragedy and burlesque : 
"Tragicomedy is never be more than a bad 
species, because in it are confounded two 
disparate species, separated by a natural bar- 
rier." Here Lessing, who had derived so 
much from Diderot, reveals himself as in 
advance and on firmer ground than his 
French contemporary. It is amusing to note 
that Diderot, so often hailed as a forerunner 
of the Romanticists, is here a belated echo 
of so strict a classicist as Sir Philip Sidney 

who asserted that the plays he saw on the 
English stage were "neither right tragedies, 
nor right comedies, mingling Kings and 
Clowns, not because the matter so carrieth it, 
but thrust in Clowns by head and shoulders, 
to play a part in magestical matters, with 
neither decency nor discretion: So as neither 
the admiration and commiseration, nor the 
right sportfulness is by their mongrel Tra- 
gicomedy attained." 

1 6. Morel-Fatio notes that this passage 
also is derived directly from Robortello. 

17. These lines Lord Holland turns into 
English couplets: 

The tragic with the comic muse combin'd, 
Grave Seneca with sprightly Terence join'd, 
May seem, I grant, Pasiphae's monstrous birth, 
Where one half moves our sorrow, one our mirth. 
But sweet variety must still delight, 
And, spite of rules, dame Nature says we're right, 
Thru' all her works she this example gives, 
And from variety her charms derives. 

With this statement of Lope's may be 
compared the theory set forth by Victor 
Hugo in the preface to 'Cromwell.' 

19. Here once more, as Morel-Fatio has 
shown, Lope is leaning upon Robortello. 
Three and a half lines of this passage Lord 
Holland translates freely in this triplet: 

Who seated once, disdain to go away, 

Unless in two short hours they see the play 
Brought down from Genesis to judgment day. 

This popular liking for the whole story 
without selection or omission is a survival 
from the middle ages when the mystery play 
began with Genesis and ended, if not with 
judgment day, at least with the casting of the 
wicked into Hell-Mouth. To the Classicists 
this prolongation of the action was always 
most offensive. Lord Holland turned into 
English the four lines in which Boileau de- 
nounces the custom : 

The Spanish bard, who no nice censure fears, 
In one short day includes a lapse of years. 
In those rude acts the hero fives so fast, 
Child in the first, he's greybeard in the last. 

And Sir Philip Sidney had earlier ex- 
pressed his disgust for this license, blaming 
the English playwrights for their liberal al- 
lowance of time, "for ordinary it is that two 
young Princes fall in love. After many tra- 
verses, she is got with child, delivered of a 
fair boy; he is lost, groweth up a man, falls 
in love, and is ready to get another child; 
and all this in two hours' space: which how 
absurd it is in sense even sense may imagine, 
and Art hath taught, and all ancient exam- 
ples justified." With this may be compared 
Corneille's opinions in his 'Discourse on the 

Three Unities' and in his discussion of his 
own 'Melite.' 

Lope's limitation of the duration of per- 
formance is exactly equivalent to Shakspere's 
"two hours traffic of the stage." But Shack, 
and after him Morel-Fatio, adduce evidence 
that the customary stay of the spectators in 
the Spanish theaters was two hours and a 

20. Lope's advice, that a play should 
first be written in prose to be turned later into 
verse, Menendez y Pelayo believes to be bor- 
rowed from a passage in Vida's Latin poem 
on the poetic art, a passage thus rendered 
in English in Pitt's translation: 

At first without the least restraint compose 
And mold the future poem with prose, 
A full and proper series to maintain 
And draw the just connection in a chain. 
By stated bounds your progress to control, 
To join the parts and regulate the whole. 

Morel-Fatio thinks this very likely, since 
Lope was familiar with Vida's work. Oddly 
enough, the principle Lope here lays down 
was not in accord with his own practise, since 
the state of the existing manuscripts seems 
to show that he composed originally in verse, 
altho on occasion he drew up a preliminary 
scenario in prose. It may be noted that the 
method here recommended by Lope was that 
actually adopted by Moliere, who (in his 


haste to meet the wishes of Louis XIV) had 
to call on Corneille to versify more than half 
of the 'Psyche' which he had completely con- 
structed in prose and which he had not been 
able wholly to turn into verse within the 
limits of time set by the king. 

Lord Holland thus renders certain lines 
of this paragraph into English couplets: 

Plays of three acts we owe to Virues' pen, 

Which ne'er had crawled but on all fours till then; 

An action suited to that helpless age, 

The infancy of wit, the childhood of the stage. 

Such plays not twelve years old did I complete, 

Four sheets to every play, an act on every sheet. 

And Ticknor also employs the rimed coup- 
let for his translation of a longer passage : 

The Captain Verues, a famous wit, 
Cast dramas in three acts, by happy hit; 
For, till his time, upon all fours they crept, 
Like helpless babes that never yet had stept. 
Such plays I wrote, eleven and twelve years old; 
Four acts each measured to a sheet's just fold 
Filled out four sheets; while still, between, 
Three entremeses short filled up the scene. 

But Camille de Senne and Guillot de Saxe 
in the preface of their study of the 'Star of 
Seville' (Paris, 1913, p. 44, note) assert that 
the three-act form had established itself in 
the Spanish theater half a century anterior 
to Verues. And Lessing in his 'Hamburg 
Dramaturgy' (Dec. 4th, 1767) had pointed 

out the discrepancy between Lope's assigning 
the credit of this change to Verues and Cal- 
deron's claim, (in the preface to his come- 
dies), that he was the first to make this re- 

If Lope had been familiar with Aristotle 
he might have justified the three-act form as 
simply the carrying out the Greek critic's 
principle that a play must have an action 
with a beginning, a middle and an end. 

As Attic tragedies were acted without any 
intermission they had only a single prolonged 
act, altho a trilogy was a story shown in 
three acts. Yet the traditional five-act form 
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
is indirectly derived from the Athenian 
drama, wherein the number of choral pas- 
sages came in time to be limited to four, 
separating five passages in dialog, which 
when the lyric interludes were omitted, stood 
forth as five separate acts. Horace, prob- 
ably following the precepts of the Alexan- 
drian critics, prescribes five acts (see Weil's 
'Etudes sur le Drame Antique,' p. 325). 
The MSS. of Latin comedy show no divi- 
sion into acts (see Fairclough's edition of 
Terence's 'Andria,' pp. lii, liii,). It may be 
noted that as soon as the five-act form was 
disestablished the tendency of the leading 
modern dramatists has been to adopt the 
logical three-act form. Most of Ibsen's so- 

cial dramas are in three acts, just as Lope's 

Commenting on Lope's strange prescrip- 
tion of the number of pages a comedy should 
have, Professor Rennert (p. 163, note) tells 
us that "this rule, as to the length of the 
comedia, which Lope here lays down, was 
carefully followed by all the other dramat- 
ists of the time, and deviations from it are 
rare. Four sheets sixteen leaves for each 
act, that is forty-eight leaves to a comedia. 
An examination of Lope's autograph plays 
shows how strictly he adhered to this rule. 
Where slight variations are found they are 
due to the difference in the size of the leaves 
the comedia always consisting of about 
three thousand lines. . . . On the other 
hand, the comedies of Miguel Sanchez, a 
predecessor of Lope, contain about four 
thousand lines." 

Lope, like his fellow dramatists Calderon 
and Corneille, Moliere, Voltaire and Gol- 
doni, had been a pupil of the Jesuits; and it 
was doubtless when he was a youthful stu- 
dent of the Jesuit school in Madrid that he 
became acquainted with the critical theories 
of the Italian commentators of Horace and 

21. The rule forbidding the dramatist 
ever to leave the stage empty Morel-Fatio 
traces to a passage in Donatus dealing with 

the omission of the chorus from the New 
Comedy of the Greeks. Altho Corneille 
does not expressly discuss this rule, he obeyed 
it; and it was generally obeyed by all the 
French dramatists who accepted the Classi- 
cist theory, possibly because the leaving of 
the stage empty became the conventional sig- 
nal of the end of the act. Even today at the 
Theatre Frangais, the curtain does not al- 
ways fall on the termination of an act; the 
stage is left unoccupied for a moment and 
then the three raps of the wooden hammer 
are heard, whereupon the characters enter 
who are to begin the next act. On the English- 
speaking stage this rule has never established 
itself; and our dramatic poets have now and 
again achieved an effect of expectancy by 
leaving the stage bare and letting the spec- 
tators wonder who is next to appear. 

23. A part of this paragraph is turned 
into English couplets by Lord Holland: 

In ten line staves should wailing grief be shown; 
The sonnet suits a man who speaks alone; 
Let plain narration flow in ballad lines; 
Though much a tale in copious octaves shines; 
Grand weighty thoughts the triplet should contain 
But redondillas suit the lover's strain. 

In the introduction to his 'Select Plays of 
Calderon' Norman Maccoll gives a clear ex- 
planation of the various sorts of verse that 
Lope mentions here: Romances are "octo- 

syllabic trochaics the customary measure of 
the Spanish ballads. As in the ballads, 
these trochaics are sometimes rimed and 
sometimes assonant. Redondillas are ar- 
ranged in strophes of four lines each. Strong 
endings and weak endings are both employed. 
The first and fourth lines rime together, and 
so do the second and third. This is the sim- 
plest of the riming measures in common use. 

Quintillas are arranged in strophes 
of five lines each. The only rule observed 
in the riming is that the same rime must not 
occur in more than two successive lines. 

The Decima is a combination of 
two quintillas in one strophe of ten lines. 
The arrangement of rimes is as follows : the 
first five are disposed . . . a, b, b, a, a, 
and the second five are arranged c, c, d, d, jel 
. Three other forms of iambic verse 
are borrowed from the Italians, the Terceto 
(the terza rima of the Italians), the Octava 
(or ottava rima} and the Sonnet." Maccoll 
in his turn renders several of Lope's lines 
into English rimes: 

In decimas finds voice the mourner's wail ; 
The sonnet's fitted for the action's stay; 
Romances serve to tell the player's tale. 
Yet octaves well can stirring news convey; 
While deed of high import in terzas shines, 
And redondillas are the lover's lines. 

The incessant employment of these var- 

ious lyric measures is evidence, were any 
needed, of the prevailing lyrical quality of 
the dialog of the Spanish drama when Lope 
and Calderon were its chiefs. It may be 
noted that in 'Prunella, a Fantasy in Three 
Acts,' by Lawrence Hausman and Granville 
Barker, the authors emphasize the lyrical 
element in their rococo story by scattering 
riming stanzas at irregular intervals thruout 
the dialog. 

That the sonnet with its artificial and arbi- 
trary scheme of intricately interlaced rimes 
should be intercalated into dramatic dialog 
may seem to modern readers a strange sug- 
gestion. Yet Lope was here only recom- 
mending a practise inherited from the me- 
dieval mysteries wherein various fixt forms 
of verse were frequently employed. Their 
stanzaic rigidity did not prevent the deviser 
of a French passion-play from utilizing the 
triolet, the ballade, and even the long-sus- 
tained and stately chant-royal; and the play- 
wright availed himself of their aid not only 
in passages of lyrical emotion but also in the 
swift give and take of the intenser dramatic 
moments of the action. This tradition of 
the religious pieces was taken over by the 
founders of the secular drama in most of the 
modern languages, in English as well as in 
French and in Spanish. Corneille's first play 
'Melite' was composed especially to bring in 


a sonnet; and even as late as the 'Cid' Cor- 
neille cast his lyrical monologs into stanzas, 
for which he was censured by the Abbe 
d' Aubignac and by Voltaire; and Brunetiere 
(in his annotated edition of Corneille's more 
important plays) likens the lyrical soliloquy 
of Rodrigue at the end of the first art to the 
bravura solo of a tenor, coming down to the 
footlights with his hand on his heart (p. 69). 
Shakspere used the looser Elizabethan son- 
net for the prolog to 'Romeo and Juliet' 
spoken by Chorus; and Ben Jonson employs 
it for the Prolog for the Court of his 'Staple 
of News.' The incongruity of the fixt form 
is least obvious when the sonnet is thus kept 
outside the play itself and when it is utilized 
only in the address to the audience before the 
action begins. But Shakspere did not hesi- 
tate to employ this fixt form inside the play; 
in 'Love's Labor's Lost' (act iii, scene 2) and 
also in 'All's Well that ends Well' (act iii, 
scene 4) he casts a letter into fourteen lines, 
with three riming quatrains and a terminal 
couplet. And again in 'Romeo and Juliet' 
where hero and heroine meet and fall in love 
at first sight, the lyrical significance of this 
meeting is suggested by the employment of 
the fourteener, Romeo speaking the first 
quatrain, Juliet the second, while the third 
quatrain and the final couplet are shared be- 
tween them, each taking in turn a line or 

two. M. Rostand prefixes a sonnet to every 
act of his 'Chantecler,' utilizing them for a 
poetical description of the successive sets in 
which the action of his lyrical play is sup- 
posed to take place. 

The ballade is to be found in two nine- 
teenth century French plays, the 'Gringoire' 
of Theodore de Banville, and the 'Cyrano 
de Bergerac' of Rostand; but in both these 
pieces it is frankly presented as what it is, 
a poem composed in the fixt form by the hero 
of the play. Maccoll suggests that sonnets 
were introduced by the Spanish playwright 
"to please the more cultivated part of the 
audience"; and he remarks that "from their 
nature [they] could be employed sparingly 
not more than two or three sonnets were 
usually put into a play." He notes that in 
one oif Calderon's pieces, 'Gustos y Disgus- 
tos' a duenna who is in doubt as to her imme- 
diate duty, begins her speech "by saying 
that she must either indulge in a soliloquy or 
pronounce a sonnet. She elects the former, 
and proceeds to soliloquize in redondillas." 

28. Lord Holland has turned these lines 
into English couplets: 

None than myself more barbarous or more wrong, 
Who hurried by the vulgar taste along, 
Dare give my precepts in despite of rule. 
When France and Italy pronounce me fool. 
But what am I to do? who now of plays, 

With one complete within these seven days, 
Four hundred eighty-three in all have writ, 
And all, save six, against the rules of wit. 

It needs to be recorded that Lope's com- 
mentators have been sadly put to it in their 
endeavor to identify the half dozen of Lope's 
plays which he here claims to be in accord 
with the theories of the Classicists. 

Attention has been called also to the simi- 
larity of attitude between Lope here and that 
taken by Webster in the preface to his 'White 
Devil,' published in 1612, only three years 
after the Spanish poem had been delivered: 
"If it be objected that this is no true Dra- 
matic Poem, I shall easily confess it; non 
poles in nugas dicere plura meas Ipse ego 
quam dixl; willingly, and not ignorantly, in 
this kind have I faulted; for should a man 
present to such an Auditory the most con- 
tentious Tragedy that ever was written, ob- 
serving all the critical laws, as height of style 
and gravity of person, enrich it with the sen- 
tentious chorus, and, as it were, life 'n Death 
in the passionate and weighty Nuntius, yet 
after all this divine rapture, O dura mess* 
orum ilia, the breath that comes from the 
incapable multitude is able to poison it; and 
ere it be acted, let the author resolve to fix 
to every scene this of Horace, 

Haec Porcis hodie comedenda relinques." 

B. M. 



Vega Carpio, Lope Felix de 

The new art of writing